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Traveling This Memorial Day Weekend

More Americans will be traveling this Memorial Day weekend than have in years, according to AAA, a motor club and leisure travel organization.

CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano reported for the last couple of years, the sluggish economy put the brakes on people's travel plans. But experts say this year, people want to make up for lost time.

After years of recession-induced "staycations," Experts say Americans are ready to hit the road again -- they're just not going very far.

Genevieve Shaw Brown, of Travelocity, said, "We can safely say the 'staycation' is probably dead. Maybe it's the year of the 'nearcation,' taking advantage of those hotel deals nearby."

Quijano said AAA, predicts 5.4 percent more people will travel this year compared to last Memorial Day weekend. That's a total of 32.1 million people. And most of them will be driving.

At the Jersey shore, boardwalk businesses hope that increased traffic comes their way.

Jill Swenson, manager of the T-shirt shop Shirts and Things, told CBS News, "This year I am expecting for a lot more people to come down. A lot more enticing marketing."

Nationwide, gas prices are actually up more than 30 cents a gallon from a year ago, yet the average is still expected to remain below $3.00 a gallon this weekend.

Experts say as the economy begins to turn a corner, so too, will Americans' confidence about traveling and spending money.

Candy store manager Joanne Quinn in Ocean City, N.J., says for small businesses, a lot is at stake this holiday weekend.

"Memorial Day is the big kick off," she said. "We kind of look at it like Memorial Day is the start of the summer."

Looking ahead to summer travel, experts say airfares will be up slightly, with the average fare about $350. But hotel rates are still relatively low with the average cost of a room about $140.

Robert Sinclair, spokesman for AAA, said on "The Early Show" Friday that 83 percent of Americans will travel by car, while 2.1 million will go by plane. Another two million will be divided among other means of transportation.

So how can you beat the crowded roadways?

Sinclair said, "Most of the traffic will start after 5:00 p.m. (Friday). And on Monday returning between 6:00 p.m. and midnight. So if you can travel outside of those hours ... it would be helpful. But we do not recommend traveling during overnight hours. Some try to beat the traffic that way. And if you're accustomed to being asleep during those hours, you could succomb to 'micro sleep' where you might drift off to sleep. So travel during normal hours."

But why is road travel going up as gas prices rise?

Sinclair explained, "Gas prices are up about 30 cents compared to a year ago. Averaging $2.75 a gallon today, according to AAA Fuel Gauge Report. But if you think back to July of 2008 when we hit $4.11, that's still fresh in people's minds. So $2.75 a gallon seems to be a relative bargain, and people will get out and hit the road. And some other more promising economic data, we think, are leading more people to getting out over this holiday weekend."

Sinclair continued, "Two- and three-diamond hotels are down in price compared to last year. Airfares are probably flat. There are far fewer flights available. But rental car rates are down. And hotels are down as much as 40 to 50 percent. So if you don't have your own car and you need to rent one, you'll have a bargain in that area this year."

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